Multiple tests: Will Canada respond? Is the WTO system too cumbersome? Is this a better route than waiving intellectual property rights?
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED MAY 12, 2021 | UPDATED MAY 12, 2021
News broke late yesterday (May 11, 2021) that a Canadian company, Biolyse Pharma, had agreed to supply Bolivia with 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine for COVID-19, without the patent-owner’s permission.
But the deal cannot go ahead until the Canadian government issues a “compulsory licence” for Biolyse Pharma to make the vaccine in Canada and export it to Bolivia.
Although the objective is to get a cheaper version of the vaccine to a developing country — Bolivia — a lot of the focus will be on Canada, which now holds the key.
Will the US prevail? What actually lies ahead? How long will it take? And if the waiver is agreed, what impact will it have?
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED MAY 7, 2021 | UPDATED JUNE 5, 2021
It’s tempting to conclude that the proposed waiver on World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic will swiftly be agreed now that the US is supporting it.
It’s also tempting to assume that if the waiver is agreed, then intellectual property on vaccines and other COVID-19 products will be freely available and in use around the world.
Neither of those will necessarily happen, and almost certainly not quickly.
Questions and explanations about why the waiver is proposed, why it’s opposed and what it would mean
Update: In a remarkable turn-around on May 5, 2021, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the US would support the waiver and negotiate based on a proposed text. The press release referred only to COVID-19 vaccines, not other products. Tai said:
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protection, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines. We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.
“The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts — working with the private sector and all possible partners — to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.”
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED DECEMBER 17, 2020 | UPDATED AUGUST 4, 2021
A petition with almost a million signatures was delivered to the World Trade Organization on December 9, 2020, calling for the WTO “to urgently ensure access to lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment for everyone in the world”.
We can overlook the fact that the WTO has no power to “ensure” anything of the kind. What the petition aimed to do was to support a proposal to waive WTO intellectual property rules temporarily where related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The delivery was timed for the discussion the following day when members met as the Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Council). Since then, the proposal has gone nowhere.
The UK has agreed to keep EU names protected, but what about UK names in the EU?
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED AUGUST 29, 2020 | UPDATED JANUARY 10, 2021
News that Britain wanted to renegotiate a deal struck in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement on geographical indications — names such as Scotch whisky, Melton Mowbray pies, Cognac and Roquefort cheese — has triggered a discussion about what exactly was agreed, what wasn’t included and why not.
A report in The Guardian (echoing some earler reports) said the EU was “flabbergasted” that the UK wanted to water down the deal on geographical indications. “It’s just not going to happen,” the report quoted an EU official as saying.
People’s views of geographical indications range from cherishing them as precious cultural heritage and commercial property, to annoyance and scorn. They are complicated. Every argument has a counter-argument
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED MAY 5, 2018 | FIRST PUBLISHED ON UK TRADE FORUM APRIL 3, 2018 | UPDATED JANUARY 10, 2021